June 7

Building, Writing, Rolling

What are we up to you ask? The learning never ends in Room 124. We are building catapults, writing poetry, and rolling dice while we learn about probability.

Below you can see that students are working in partners or trios to design and build a catapult that must launch a marshmallow over a ‘wall’. They’ve put their thinking caps on and are busy gluing, sticking, and testing their designs. Good luck! (Thanks to Mrs. Bernardo for the pictures).

I’ve been blown away by the level of creative thinking by many students in our poetry unit so far. The vocabulary and ‘thinking outside the box’ is outstanding. We will be sure to share with you several of our poems. The students LOVE to share their poems with the class and are eager to keep writing…even into lunch hour! Woah. You can see us below writing a poem in a small group based on a regular, every day object that Mrs. Sullivan gave to us. Some of the objects included scissors, an orange cone, and a clipboard.

We were off to the races today playing a Horse Race game involving rolling a pair of dice and moving our ‘horse’ one space if the dice showed our horse’s number. If we were horse #5, then whenever someone threw a 5, we were allowed to move forward one space. Whomever crossed the finish line first was the winner. Some of us thought our horses were ‘cursed’ or that it was unlucky for some strange reason. Tomorrow we will discuss why certain horses were winning more than others. I have a feeling math has something to do with it!

May 31

Launching into Poetry

Launching a unit in poetry means that we need to immerse ourselves in poems of course! Lots and lots of poems–not only written by famous poets like Shel Silverstein, T.S. Eliot, Naomi Shihab Nye, Dennis Lee, and Sheree Fitch, but also poems written by my past students.

So, what is poetry anyway? Some might say poetry is powerful words and that poems are hiding everywhere. Others may say poetry helps us tell a story, express our feelings, helps us heal.

Poems can be silly, nonsensical, sad, joyful, sorrowful, bright, confusing, thought-provoking, simple, complex, and so much more.

Our focus in this unit is on writing non-rhyming poems (free-verse poetry) and really learning how to use language to bring life to our thoughts and look at the world in different ways. I really love for students to learn to write free-verse poems because there are no rules and it gives permission to the students to think outside the box rather than conform to a certain structure. It really allows them to think freely and not have to worry about rhyming words so much.

Check us out immersing ourselves in reading some great poems with our friends on Tuesday.

April 25

Visiting Author: Andrea Beck

Last Friday, students were delighted to welcome guest author/illustrator, Andrea Beck.  Check out her website here.

She not only read to us but taught us about the writing process and how she illustrates her books. Students asked her all sorts of questions such as “Where do you get your inspiration?” and “What was your first published book?”

Andrea even shared with us that she just found out her book “Good Morning Canada” was chosen to be given to all first grade students across Canada! What an honour!

Andrea has written books that have even been made into TV shows. Her famous characters include Pierre, Buttercup the cow and of course Elliot the moose.

She showed us how simple shapes are used to help us achieve success at creating our own character. She sketched a picture of Elliot the moose and walked us through the fact that she starts with circles. Afterall, everyone can draw circles, she reminded us.

 

Andrea reminded us writers of something very important:

…it can be the simplest memories like digging on a beach or baking cakes as a kid that can become stories

 

I wholeheartedly agree!

April 20

What’s Your Opinion?

In our current writing unit on persuasive writing, the students are working towards writing a letter addressed to someone (or a group of people) and in that letter, share a concern or idea they may have on a topic they feel is important to them.  This letter will also serve as the basis for their speech on the same topic. It is my hope that they choose a topic they feel passionate about.

Today, the students brainstormed ideas for the letter. The topics the students came up with were quite diverse.

Some of the topics the students brainstormed included:

  • war
  • racism
  • should animals be kept in zoos/MarineLand?
  • smoking
  • using respectful language
  • the dangers of video games, Pokemon Go
  • girls should be treated as equals to boys
  • girls and women should be represented equally in sports
  • the importance of school (don’t take it for granted)

We began the unit with an activity called 4 Corners. Each corner of the classroom had a sign that read either Strongly Agree, Agree, Strongly Disagree, Disagree. The students had to think about their position on the topic and decide which sign to stand under. They needed to be able to justify why they believed what they did and were even allowed to change their minds if another group persuaded them to do so.

Topics ranged from “Should animal testing be allowed?” to “Should children be allowed to have a TV in their bedroom?”.  Several students were very passionate about their opinion while others were more easily swayed in any direction. Lots of chatter and discussion around these topics gave the students plenty of opportunity to practice their debating skills and how to respectfully disagree.

 

What is one topic/issue you feel strongly for or against?

 

April 16

Celebration of Writing

Writers write. And that’s exactly what our class has been busy doing. On Thursday we celebrated the incredible hard work these students have been putting forth. To see a story go through all the phases of the writing process and be proud of the final product is quite the feat! I can tell how proud my students were by the smiles on their faces and their eagerness to see their stories published into a book and share them with others. Bravo!

Our librarian, Mrs. Allen, is delighted to place our books in the school library temporarily and is eager to show them to our visiting author who comes next Friday. Her name is Andrea Beck. A future blog post will be written about her visit.

Our celebration of writing happened on Thursday complete with a drink and a snack. Our books can go home this Easter weekend to be shared with family (with the promise to bring them back on Tuesday to be placed in the library).

Cheers!

Mrs. Sullivan

March 25

Fantastic Fiction

Students are gearing up to put all their hard work and drafting skills into their good copy. We will be turning our stories into books and can’t wait to share our finished pieces with you!

Students have been learning over the past several weeks how to embed meaningful dialogue, setting details, step-by-step details, double-endings (physical and emotional as Jack Gantos would suggest), colourful vocabulary, different types of narrative (1st person versus 3rd person), leads, conclusions, paragraphing…phew! It’s endless.

The students are so creative and love to share their work with others. Some of the stories are about going to camp, entering a race, losing a Roll up the Rim tab, friendship, auditioning for a school, sleepovers, water slide disasters, etc. They are all quite diverse.

Today we spent time learning how to edit with a partner and were asked to listen very carefully as to where the student did well and what they could improve upon. We also worked on our title pages.

Stay tuned for the finished product celebration. Write on!

February 12

Drafting Ideas

In Writing Workshop, we are learning to generate ideas for writing realistic fiction.

What is realistic fiction?

Realistic fiction is a genre consisting of stories that could have actually occurred to people or animals in a believable setting. These stories resemble real life, and fictional characters within these stories react similarly to real people.

We have learned to:

  • reread older entries in our notebook, mining for possible ideas
  • think about stories we wish existed in the world and write about them
  • draw a map of our house and let this reveal ideas for a story

When writing, it is great to learn from the pros! Recently, we’ve been learning different ways to gather ideas for writing realistic fiction. Over the last few days, we’ve had Jack Gantos as our teacher of writing. He’s the author of the Rotten Ralph series, Joey Pigza series, Jack Henry series, and other books, too!

When working abroad, I had the pleasure of meeting Jack Gantos and listened to him share his tips and strategies when writing. I was more than happy to share his presentation with the class recently Writing can be a daunting task, especially when staring at hundreds of blank pages in our notebooks. We learned that just writing 10 minutes a day can be a great start to building a story. Jack showed us his Grade 5 writer’s notebook, which he shows in the picture above. He writes all of his books in his notebook first and he’s kept all of his notebooks from when he was a child. Pretty neat!

To add to our repertoire of generating ideas for fictional writing, we’re taking Jack’s advice and drawing a map of our house and finding stories that hide within our house–either in our bedroom, in the kitchen, backyard, wherever! We might dismiss the ‘everyday’ things that happen to us and overlook them as potential stories to nurture and develop. Most of Jack’s stories that he writes about come from things that happen to him in his own life.

In this writing unit, we hope to use stories from our own lives to inspire and create fictional characters and events.

Stay tuned for more about our realistic fiction writing adventures!

January 16

Paragraph Patrol

As part of our paragraph writing practice, we took a close look at some paragraphs students had written already and then evaluated their responses in 2 ways:

  1. How well the student answered the question, including organization of their thoughts
  2. Conventions (grammar, punctuation, capitalization)

It helps to get practice knowing what a level 4 sounds like, compared to a level 3, and so on. For the most part, we all agreed on the levels we assigned to each answer.

Have a look at us in action!

December 14

Powerful Paragraphs

Ah….the infamous paragraph burger! I’m sure many of us, parents included, have learned about paragraphing in this way. Lately in our class, the students in our class know that a strong paragraph typically has several key ingredients:

paragraph

The structure of a paragraph remains the same, even from when I went to school.

A paragraph is a group of related sentences about a topic.

The topic sentence, tells us what the paragraph is about. It provides a hint about what the reader will learn.

The body of the paragraph is at least 3-4 sentences that give supporting details about the topic.

The concluding sentence sums up the ideas in the paragraph and mirrors the topic sentence.

In writing workshop today, we collaborated as a class and wrote a paragraph about playing in the snow at recess. We wrote details about building forts, snowmen, catching snowflakes on our tongue, and throwing snowballs (shhh). Next, the students practiced on their own choosing from 3 possible topics: Elf on the Shelf, Christmas Morning, or Christmas Dinner.

We shared our paragraphs with a partner and a few of us shared with the whole class. Mrs. Sullivan reminded us about using juicy vocabulary, too! It was fun to hear of the details we each used in our paragraph. Bravo!

 

November 24

Revising with Partners

To REVISE means to see again. The prefix re- means again and vise means to see such as in the words vision, visor, visionary.

As we prepare to publish our narratives, we took some time today to read our narratives to a partner. The partner was asked to listen carefully and afterwards offer 2 specific compliments (e.g., I really liked the way you wrote your lead. It was catchy and I could picture what you were saying), and 1 suggestion for a revision (e.g., perhaps add more detail to that paragraph).

Reading our stories in an expressive, storyteller way is helpful to bring our ideas to life, too! Great job everyone for your hard work. It is so important to have ‘fresh eyes’ looking at your work.

There are so many layers to writing that we are learning about this year such as:

  • strategies to generate writing ideas
  • how to add voice to our writing
  • how to craft a lead
  • how to craft an ending without saying “The End” or to be continued…
  • when do you start a paragraph? What is a paragraph?
  • how to add dialogue
  • making our word choices more vivid and complex
  • how to use published authors as our mentors. What did this author do that I can try?

Most times, good writing just doesn’t happen. You work at it, you revise (making it sound better), and you edit (making it look better), and you do it all over again until you feel it’s ready to be published.

What do you find the most challenging when it comes to writing and the writing process?